As I have gotten older, I have gotten really good at telling stories.
To myself, that is.
Like Friday, for instance. I had been thinking about buying a Keurig coffee maker for several months now. You know, the kind that allows you to pop in a little sealed cup of coffee, pull a lever and push a button, and there’s a cup of coffee? Sounds neat, right?
I left the house with a coupon, knowing the store I was visiting was also having a sale. I told myself if I could get it for $50 dollars or less, then I could buy it. Otherwise, no deal.
I got to the store, and the one I wanted was on sale. But even with the sale and the coupon and a rebate, the price was around $65. I should have walked away.
Except I didn’t. I started telling myself a story that went something like, “If I buy the coffee maker, I can drink fresh-brewed coffee at home instead of stopping on the way to work. I’ll save TONS of money that way. And especially if I buy the accessory that allows me to use my own coffee, it will practically be like “they” are paying me to buy the Keurig.”
Although, I didn’t mention to myself that the add-on accessory was another $12, and I wouldn’t actually be receiving a check in the mail for buying the appliance. So, I spent way more than $50 on Friday all because of an amazing story I told myself.
At least as I write, I’m drinking a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. It was totally worth it.
But talking myself into unnecessary retail purchases is not the only time I tell stories. Yesterday, I slept an hour and a half longer than I planned because throughout the morning I kept telling myself a story, albeit groggily, about how I needed the extra rest because I have been working so hard lately and I have been doing such a good job at going to bed on time.
Using stories to talk myself into a new coffee pot or an extra hour of sleep is bad enough. But the stories usually don’t stop there.
Those stories ended up ruining their lives.
One of the men was Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. When he first began to follow Jesus, he must certainly have been convinced that Jesus was something special. He probably thought Jesus would save them all from the Roman oppression. But as he followed the Master, he came to realize that the salvation Jesus offered didn’t match the story Judas had told himself. In that story, money wasn’t wasted, followers didn’t have to wait tables for each other, and leaders certainly didn’t hand themselves over to be killed.
So, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss because of a story he had told himself.
The other man from Matthew 27 was Pilate, the governor of Judea. He also was a story teller. As he begrudgingly ruled a people he hated, he began to tell himself that he was better than this, that he should never have been assigned to this despicable place. He was self-deceived enough to be curious about Jesus, even he had heard about the healings and the exorcisms and possibly even of the resurrection of Lazarus. But as the crowds pressed in and the religious leaders jockeyed, he told himself a story about how this shouldn’t be his problem, and to avoid a riot, he washed his hands of the whole thing.
Pilate washed his hands of Jesus because of a story he had told himself.
This morning, as I laid in bed, intermittently hitting the snooze and dozing off and on, I began to tell myself a different story.
It went something like this:
To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:1-3)
So this morning, I slept only 30 minutes longer because of a story I told myself. Then I got up and was actually productive and content.
Maybe I’m not such a good story teller after all.